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The role of interleukin-12 in the heavy metal-elicited immunomodulation: relevance of various evaluation methods

Author(s): Hemdan Nasr

Journal: Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology
ISSN 1745-6673

Volume: 3;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 25;
Date: 2008;
Original page

Abstract Background Increasing evidence exists that heavy metals modulate T helper cell (Th) responses and thereby elicit various pathological manifestation. Interleukin (IL)-12, a crucial innate cytokine, was found to be regulated by such xenobiotic agents. This study aimed at testing whether IL-12 profiles may be indicative of heavy metals-induced immunomodulation. Methods Human immunocompetent cells, activated either by monoclonal antibodies or heat-killed Salmonella enterica, were cultured in the absence or presence of cadmium (Cd) acetate or mercuric (Hg) chloride. In vivo experiments were set up where BALB/c mice were exposed to sub-lethal doses of Cd or Hg salts for 3 or 5 weeks. Cytotoxicity was assessed by MTT-reduction assay. Modulation of cytokine profiles was evaluated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), cytometric bead-based array (CBA) and real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR); the relevance of these methods of cytokine quantification was explored. Results Modulation of IL-12 profiles in Cd- or Hg-exposed human PBMC was dose-dependent and significantly related to IFN-γ levels as well as to the Th1- or Th2-polarized responses. Similarly, skewing the Th1/Th2 ratios in vivo correlated significantly with up- or down-regulation of IL-12 levels in both cases of investigated metals. Conclusion It can be inferred that: (i) IL-12 profiles alone may represent a relevant indicator of heavy metal-induced immune modulation; (ii) evaluating cytokine profiles by CBA is relevant and can adequately replace other methods such as ELISA and RT-PCR in basic research as well as in immune diagnostics; and (iii) targeting IL-12 in therapeutic approaches may be promising to modify Th1/Th2-associated immune disorders.

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